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  • Hamish Hart

Nomadland (2020) Review

Updated: Oct 18, 2021

RATING: 6/10

THE 2021 Academy Awards are right around the corner, and many are calling Chloe Zhao's candid look into the lives of vagabonds a top contender.

And while it no doubt deserves nominations, the same cannot be said for winning said categories - Best Picture in particular (if that is something you care about).

Based on the book of the same name, Nomadland follows Fern (Frances McDormand), a woman who decides to travel cross-country in her van after losing her home following the Great Recession in 2011.

Fern's journey across America sees her interact with and befriend an abundance of real-life nomads who are undergoing similar struggles, though had decided to travel for diverging reasons.

Nomadland's claim to fame is that, discounting McDormand and David Strathairn, all of the actors and actresses are real people, helping to invoke realism into an otherwise sappy film.

But what sets it apart from other heartstring grabbers is that Chloe Zhao does an extraordinary job at balancing sympathy and jubilation, never leaning too far into one emotional standpoint, assisting the audience to become more attached with each wanderer Fern encounters.

The always-great Frances McDormand delivers the most down-to-earth performance of her career, seamlessly blending in with her fellow nomads.

Whether it is at various workplaces or campsites, McDormand pushes method acting to the limit as she fully commits to the nomadic lifestyle by camping overnight in her cramped caravan and sincerely interacting with fellow companions in a manner that makes you question the difference between the performers and the pilgrims.

Unfortunately the film suffers from style over substance as while awe-inspiring shots and exquisite compositions, courtesy of Italian composer Ludovico Einaudi, blend perfectly together to create an essence of gloom, Nomadland never seems to capitalise on its encapsulating premise.

The film begins with a chilling introduction into the life of Fern and what it has become following the Great Recession, setting the stage for great character development as she embarks on a life-changing journey. But Fern is never developed beyond that as she meanders her way through a world that changes as often as she does (which is never).

McDormand attempts to bring life into Fern during the first halve of Nomadland, but not even the critically-acclaimed actress could exude personality and some form of identity into her by the film's lingering conclusion.

It is a crying shame to label Nomadland as this, but it is what it is: wasted potential.

Chloe Zhao sets up a tremendous premise during the film's opening, but opts to present wonderful sceneries as appose to character development - in a film where we follow one main character.

Nomadland is a fantastic movie, but if not for a few mishaps, it could have been one for the history books.


About Me

Hamish newsheadshot_edited.jpg

Born in Longreach in Central West Queensland, I have undertaken a number of prominent roles across the region such as Journalist and Digital Media for The Longreach Leader, as well as appearing on critically-acclaimed radio stations ABC Western Queensland and 4LG and West FM to discuss all things film.

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